RANGERS administrators Duff and Phelps asked the club’s players to play for free for the rest of the season, it has emerged. It is one of the ‘permutations’ floated by the administrators rejected by the Ibrox squad yesterday as parties met to address the £4.5 million shortfall in the club’s income as against expenditure across the next three months.
The black hole in the finances was expected to bring a raft of job losses among the first-team squad and at the club yesterday, but the administrators delayed an announcement as they sought some form of concensus on their cost-saving measures in talks attended by Ally McCoist, PFA Scotland president Tony Higgins, chief executive Fraser Wishart and the union’s lawyer.
The Rangers squad pushed for wage deferrals without limit of time, citing the example of Plymouth where salaries went unpaid for ten months until the English League Two team were able to come out of administration following a buy-out last October. That is not favoured by the Rangers administrations who feel essentially ‘parking a debt’ could dull the interest of potential buyers. The Rangers squad are understood to be unified in their opposition to any redundancies or permanent salary reductions, though it is believed McCoist and his backroom team Kenny McDowall and Ian Durrant are willing to accept them. The Ibrox players deny, though, that they were presented with the options of voting for a 75 per cent across the board wage cut, eight redundancies and a 50 per cent wage cut or 11 redundancies and a 30 per cent wage cuts as different scenarios that would allow the club to cover expenditure to May.
With none of the short-term solutions that administrators consider workable proving acceptable to the playing squad, it is likely job and wage cuts will be imposed tomorrow that will precipitate legal challenge. “The situation does remain fluid, though,” said a source close to the administrators last night. “I would expect an announcement on Friday but there are no definitives about what that will be. Ally McCoist is looking for a solution that protects the players and the club’s playing interests as much as possible while the administrators must seek the best possible solution for the safeguarding of the club’s future.”
There was ‘nothing sinister’ in the delaying of any announcement on cuts, it was stated, with the fact three players, USA captain Carlos Bocanegra, his international team-mate Maurice Edu and Romania’s Dorin Goian, late arrivals back from international duty one of the factors in it. Another was the hope that more time will give administrators an opportunity to “track down as much money as possible”. It has been reported that several million of the £20m that Rangers Craig Whyte raised from Ticketus through the sale of Rangers season tickets could still be in the Collyer Bristow account used to conduct that transaction.
“The money the administrators are hoping to claw in won’t just be the big public stuff that is known about. Other people have funds, and it isn’t straightforward. It is a matter of pulling it all together.”
There appears no way that the administrators can draw together sufficient finances to avoid setting themselves on a collision course with the playing squad. They may be able to strike a compromised whereby eight players would lose their jobs and the others asked to take a 30 per cent wage cut, but any measures will be bloody and painful.
It is understood that the most vulnerable players in any cull would be those well remunerated but in the closing stages of their contracts, and so with no resale value. Defender Sasa Papac, striker David Healy goalkeeper Neil Alexander all become free agents in May and, along with on-loan Arsenal player Kyle Bartley, would be the first targets for wage savings. In Lee McCulloch and Kirk Broadfoot having only 15 months remaining on their present deals and ranking among the better paid they are also believed to be on any job loss list.
However, it is believed that McCoist is fighting hard to keep McCulloch because of his ability to cover three position and the status he holds as a respected senior figure in the dressing room. However, the flip side is that, at 33, his age counts markedly against him in the administrators’ eyes. A compromise, whereby he accepted a higher wage cut than those imposed otherwise, could yet see McCulloch remain.
In other developments yesterday, Ticketus called for a “rapid and successful conclusion” to the administration process and said they are willing to hold talks with any potential new owners in a bid to help achieve that goal.
A statement read: “Following a meeting yesterday with Rangers Football Club’s administrators Duff & Phelps, Ticketus would like to state its desire for a rapid and successful conclusion to the club’s administration process and confirm its willingness to enter into discussions with any serious potential bidders for the club. This includes working with potential purchasers to help provide various financing solutions to the club that would be attractive to new owners.”
Whyte broke ranks after a period of silence to once again insist that he is working hard to help rangers come out of administration. Speaking in London before meeting the administrators, he said of possible redundancies: “Clearly I’ve got enormous sympathy for anyone who’s losing their job in this process.
“This is part of solving the problem to make Rangers a stronger business when it comes out of administration, which we are all working very hard to do.”